Research: Butterflies in Indian coffee farms

by JulieCraves on January 23, 2008

Adult butterfly communities in coffee plantations around a protected area in the Western Ghats, India. J. Dolia, M. S. Devy, N. A. Aravind, and A. Kumar. 2008. Animal Conservation 11:26-34.

Butterfly diversity was examined in 12 coffee plantations in India’s Western Ghats, a region of high biodiversity. Distance from a protected area, the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, was the most influencial variable for the abundance and richness of butterfly fauna. The closer the coffee farms to the sanctuary, the higher the species richness and abundance. The composition of butterfly species on coffee farms also became less similar to that of native forest as distance from the sanctuary increased.

The proportion of Australian Grevillea robusta, often called silver oak, a fast-growing, sparse shade timber species now being planted in place of native species on Indian coffee farms, did not seem to effect butterfly abundance or diversity (more on silver oak on coffee farms here). However, the authors stated that three or four species of shade trees dominated at the coffee farms, and none seemed attractive to butterflies.  Coffee has traditionally been grown under native, rustic shade, but there has been an increasing use of fewer, often exotic, species and less shade in recent years.

There were some limitations to this study. It took place during the dry season, when there were not many trees and plants in flower in the sanctuary, but some (mostly non-native species) in the coffee farms. Nectar-feeding butterflies of larger species, which are strong fliers, may have therefore been disproportionally represented at farms farther from the sanctuary. The authors also noted a lack of information on host plants for butterfly larvae, but that many feed on understory shrubs and plants, which tend to be absent from coffee farms. Pesticide use also has a detrimental effect on butterflies. Although coffee farms may serve as corridors or provide roosting or basking sites, they may not have adequate resources for reproducing butterflies.

Photo of Blue Tiger (Tirumala limniace), a common south India species, by Challiyan.

J. Dolia, M. S. Devy, N. A. Aravind, A. Kumar. (2008). Adult butterfly communities in coffee plantations around a protected area in the Western Ghats, India Animal Conservation, 11 (1), 26-34 DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-1795.2007.00143.x

Revised on November 24, 2020

Posted in Birds and other biodiversity,Research on coffee growing

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